Santa Cruz Superlight SL
Price: £3000 (Anodised frame plus FOX RC shock £1199, or £979 painted finish with Fox coil shock
Frame: Easton 6000 series Aluminium
Fork: Rock Shox SID Race
Stop: Hope Mini disc
Go: XTR, Bontrager RE-1 pedals
Wheels: Mavic X317 rims on Hope disc hubs, Bontrager Super X tyres, Continental Supersonic innertubes. Easton Monkey Lite carbon riser, AME’ grips, Ritchey WCS stem, WTB SST ‘Metal Flake’ saddle
Total weight: 24.7lb complete
From: Jungle – 0113 2937703Test logbook
35 – 40 hours including Red Bull racetrack, Karrimor, MBR and Red Bull trails at Coed-y-Brenin plus all the usual local test singletrack including some rare and momentous first ascents/descents of stuff that’d been eluding us for ages. In short we loved it and we thrashed it repeatedly until we absolutely HAD to send it back.The Story
Santa Cruz have been making their Heckler single pivot bikes for years now, and they’re pretty much universally regarded as one of the best suspension all rounders you can buy. As part of their constant ongoing tweaking process, they decided to lose a bit of weight to create a Superlight version. A whole bunch of swarf and fastidious gram shaving later the ‘SL’ was born to tumultuous applause from media and riders (see the BIKEmagic product review section). So when we got a chance to get our greedy little paws on a truly pimpy race specced rig we thought it rude not to accept.The Rig
Santa took the much loved Heckler as their base point and just scoured it of every spare gram of metal without impairing it’s function. All the main tubes were replaced with thinner custom butted Easton items. Headtube, bottom bracket, droputs, and the large swingarm uprights are all CNC’d to chase out weight, with large gussets supporting the headtube. They even fit titanium bolts and polythene bottle boss plugs to keep the gram count as low as possible.
Neat little finger gussets support high stress areas such as the front end of the chainstays, and very subtle flat section elements on the seatstays help tweak tubing behaviour. Apart from that the suspension disturbs the design as little as possible. Our medium sized offering even had a straight top tube (large is kinked forcorrect shock force alignment) which carries the twin mount plates, with another neat CNC shoe straddling the down tube to carry the main pivot axle and its cartridge bearings.
The pivot sits level with and forward of the middle chainring for a sweet balance between climbing traction and plusher big ring downhill action. With the Fox shock mounted high on the tall, ultra machined swingarm uprights, leverages are much lower than most single pivot set ups which means lower shock pressures for less stress and smoother action. The shock also works in a more linear path for slightly increased progressiveness over say, a Marin. Other neat touches include cable routing which sits on the top shoulder of the downtube to avoid front wheel spray, and then sneaks through stops on the swingarm upright. This kept everything running very smooth despite regular downpours and irregular maintenance. The small ‘bolt-on’ seatstay brace keeps V-brake response tight, while the swingarm carries disc brake bosses (though they rely on clip on fittings to get the hose there).
In fact the durability of the whole frame is attested by the fact the cantilevered drop-outs get machined CNC pockets to lose a bit more weight, but there’s no replaceable tab that’ll sacrifice itself instead of your mech. Santa’s reasoning is that replaceable dropouts are a very weak link that’ll often snap when they don’t have to, so instead they overcompensate with a thick plate hanger, which can be repaired. Jungle say they’ve only had two non-repairable dropout failures in the five years they’ve been doing the frames, so it sounds like it works. that the old 14-stone rider weight limit was moved up to 16 stone last year with no problems. Anodised finish also proved impressively tough (and is a lot lighter than paint) but beware fade spots from lingering Muc Off or similar aggressive cleaners.The Ride
Although the ‘Superlight’ has been shaded on weight by some recent carbon exotica, it’s still a phenomenally responsive and inspiring bike.
Even with fairly hefty large chamber Bontrager tyres the bike lit up as soon as you applied any power. Masses of traction, and an impressively taut feel from end to end meant it refused to feel sluggish even when we did, always hustling for an extra gear or a couple of seconds more before you hit the brakes.
Steering is sharp and incisive with the shorter travel SID Race forks less wayward than their leggier brothers, and both ends squatting hard into corners for extra bite. Like all bikes with a similar pivot point, the rear end jacks up out of compressions under power. You’ll soon learn to use this to lump over step ups and ledges, and flick the rear end up and out sideways on tight “yumpy” singletrack, and it generally feels “faster” and more responsive than low pivot bikes that tend to wallow in these situations.
Tall swingarm uprights can be seen swaying slightly in relation to the seat tube but there’s no perceptible movement from the rear end, which can be stuffed hard into big back end slides without any of the twist and twang we’ve experienced from other lightweights. Rear end rigidity can also be sampled easily with a simple flick of the lockout lever on the RC shock, but we didn’t need to bother with that often.
If anything sums up the performance of the SL it was the fact that when the granny ring collapsed (“I thought you would have checked the bolts”) we didn’t even bother to replace it. We just rode up everything a bit faster, including all those Coed-y-Brenin knee poppers and grovellors and rain-lashed Peak District climbs.
The SL is sold frame only, but Jungle or their dealers are able to custom build to your budget or your hearts content. We had the benefit of full pimp build with colour matched saddle and SID Race forks, XTR, Hope Mini discs, Ritchey’s ultralight WCS stem and carbon trimming from Easton. All lovely stuff but you could save a fair bit of weight with a scrawnier perch if the glitter doesn’t grab you. Oh and make sure you tip the bike upside down regularly as the flat sections of the Easton post (they allow for stress expansion) channel rear wheel spray straight down the seat tube.Verdict:
The Superlight is a triumph of evolution and an absolute blast to ride. Considering the short-travel forks and ‘sketchy in the wet’ tyres, we threw it through our favourite technical sections as hard and fast as we ever have done. Even picking its way along sphincter-puckering boulder top lines it was confident and comforting, resulting in some momentous (well for us) first descents. However our choice would definitely be to fit bigger forks and make it even more capable of A and E- taunting technical stuff. Most rides found us sitting bemused and elated at the top of something we hadn’t managed to climb before too, which pretty much sums up the superb all round performance and “go on, you can do it” character of the bike. We can’t think of many trail riders of whatever trail tastes who wouldn’t be happy with a bike based on this chassis.
In short, we absolutely loved the damn thing wherever we took it, and we’re missing it badly only two days after it went. Good news is that the painted version of the same frame with a heavier coil over shock can be had for only £975.Performance: 4.5/5 Value: 4.5/5